The U.S. Supreme Court denied a New Mexico city’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that ordered officials to remove a Ten Commandments display from city hall property.
SCOTUS denied Bloomfield’s appeal without comment Monday, and sided with a district court’s decision in favor of a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed on behalf of two followers of the Wicca faith that objected to a Ten Commandments display on the lawn of the Bloomfield City Hall, according to Constitution Daily. The ACLU celebrated the SCOTUS decision as a perceived victory for separation of church and state.
However, David Cortman, senior counsel for The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said the decision only served to intensify confusion over the issue of such displays on government property, according to the Associated Press.
“Americans shouldn’t be forced to censor religion’s role in history simply to appease someone who is offended by it or who has a political agenda to remove all traces of religion from the public square,” Cortman said.
SCOTUS ruled in favor of a similar Ten Commandments display in Texas, replicated in Nebraska and Arkansas, but ruled against two such displays in Kentucky in 2005. Twenty-three states signed an amicus brief in defense of Bloomfield’s display in August. The ADF said in its appeal that it wanted SCOTUS to settle the question of whether someone can sue on the grounds of the First Amendment simply for being offended, and the question of how the Establishment Clause test is applied to monuments.
Attorneys from ADF argued on behalf of the city that SCOTUS precedent determined personal offense toward a display did not provide a legal basis to challenge it. The city also claimed that the display was not a government endorsement of any one religion, as evidenced by a disclaimer that officials placed on the lawn, stating that the lawn was a public forum and privately funded monuments do not reflect the position of the city government.
Justice Neil Gorsuch was not involved in the decision as he had not yet been nominated when the court considered the issue, and two justices dissented in the decision.
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